DETROIT — Thursday the Tigers announced Victor Martinez had torn the medial meniscus in his left knee on February 3 and would require surgery next Tuesday, February 10. The timetable for a cartilage injury is typically anywhere from four-to-eight weeks, but could extend past that. Opening Day for the Tigers is April 6 and even if Martinez is fully recovered, they are going to need someone to fill in for him until then.
If Martinez isn't ready for Opening Day, the situation becomes increasingly delicate with Miguel Cabrera recovering from his own surgery. The Tigers aren't making any decisions regarding options they're going to pursue until Martinez's surgery next week, but so far they are still headed into spring training with the roster they currently have.
The options to replace Cabrera until he was cleared for full baseball activities was between Martinez and Alex Avila, but with Martinez scratched from that list, Avila will most likely be getting the majority of the playing time at first base, at least during spring training.
One other option to consider, however, is Double-A first baseman Aaron Westlake, a non-roster invitee to spring training. Originally he wasn't an option, but even if Avila gets significant time at first base, he won't be able to play every game and will need someone to spell him. Westlake would fit the bill until Cabrera is recovered.
Another option to consider would be Triple-A Toledo slugger Mike Hessman, who only played a handful of games at first base last season, but played 103 games in 2013 and has 384 games at a first baseman throughout his career. Recently, Cameron wrote about what the options would look like if the Tigers used Hessman.
As for Martinez, the Tigers do have more than two options than they did for Cabrera. Last year when Victor was sidelined for an obligue injury and missed approximately two weeks of playing time, J.D. Martinez replaced him in the lineup as the team's designated hitter.
Martinez, who finished as one of the top offensive players on the team, filled in well while Martinez recuperated. Of course, at the time Austin Jackson was playing center field and Torii Hunter split DH time with J.D. to help buffer the playing time. J.D. would be the most obvious choice of the Tigers' internal options, with either Steven Moya or Tyler Collins filling in for Martinez in right field. Between the two, Moya would be a better choice because of his offensive ability.
Defensively, there would be somewhat of a downgrade. Moya's routes to a ball in play are adventurous, but compared to Collins the decrease is minimal and he would provide an average replacement until Victor Martinez was healthy to play again.
Collins' offensive abilities were minimal at best to start the 2014 season, but after spending most of the year in Triple-A, his bat improved and he showed signs of being able to contribute at the major league level on a more consistent basis. Normally he wouldn't be a top choice for playing time in right field, but with the situation being as it is, the Tigers' options are somewhat limited.
One final option the Tigers have for DH and first base is Jordan Lennerton, a left-handed hitter from Triple-A. A non-roster invitee as well, Lennerton has spend the last two seasons in Toledo. Defensively Lennerton is a solid glove at first base in his career as a minor leaguer and could fit into the first base rotation temporarily.
Much of both of the current situations depends on how quickly Cabrera can get back to playing first base. Until Cabrera is fully recovered, Avila will have to give up time behind the dish so James McCann will now, in all likelihood, be receiving more playing time than before.
Once Cabrera is back though, the Tigers may just DH him and let first base take care of itself until Martinez is back on his feet. Even if the Tigers keep their options internal, which is what it appears to be the case right now, this complicates the Tigers' spring training no matter how you look at.